We would like to give a warm welcome to our new RiseVT Fellow, Alison Hemphill!  Alison, a Senior Account Manager in Cigna’s Burlington office, was selected as a 2020 Fellow and will work with the RiseVT team to launch a “Sheds” initiative as we aim to improve social connections for older residents and create a space where members can contribute their skills to the needs of the broader community.

Cigna’s Community Ambassador Fellowship program allows Cigna employees to work with an organization of their choice to positively impact the health and well-being of people in their communities. The eligible employees take a paid leave from work to support projects that exemplify Cigna’s mission. After the competitive application process, selected employees embark on a one- to three-month fellowship to work in their chosen community.

Alison started yesterday, February 17, at RiseVT to assist with launching Vermont’s first Sheds model. This model originated in Australia where “Men’s Sheds” create a community space and build a social network for retirees. One of the main drivers for the creation of the Sheds movement was to improve the overall health of the older male population who often struggle with social isolation, and related adverse health outcomes, as they age. While the original model was created to serve only men, the Vermont model will extend the invitation to all interested in joining.

“I am delighted that Alison has this opportunity to work with OneCare Vermont’s RiseVT team to address social isolation,” said Mark Butler, president of Cigna New England. “We know that feelings of isolation and loneliness affect people’s health; and social well-being influences one’s peace of mind. This important project will help improve lives and build healthier communities, which is at the heart of what we do at Cigna.”

Alison will spend three months working with us as well as our partners at SASH (Support and Services at Home). SASH is a nationally recognized program that provides comprehensive care management and prevention to older adults, and adults with disabilities, embedded in affordable housing and surrounding communities. SASH will assist with recruitment of Sheds members along with the our local program managers.

“We are thrilled to work with Alison on creating a Sheds model for Vermont,” said Melissa Southwick, Assistant Director at SASH. “Last year, I visited two Sheds in Canada and saw firsthand how impactful this model of bringing skilled, older members of the community together on purpose driven projects can be on improving health outcomes by increasing members’ sense of belonging and purpose.”

RiseVT anticipates piloting three Sheds in 2020 in strategic locations in Vermont with support from local RiseVT program managers.  Once these sites are identified, more information will be available on locations, operating times, and membership at RiseVT.org this spring.

“Our goal at RiseVT is for all Vermonters to have what they need to lead a healthy life.  We have been excited to create a Sheds model for quite some time and are thrilled that Alison will help make this happen in 2020,” said Marissa Parisi, Executive Director of RiseVT.